Too Old to Learn Code

I wrote my first line of code in 2014 and a year later I founded my first software consultancy. Since that, I’ve founded two other technology companies. I’ve designed and built several digital products. I also competed in 70 hackathon/innovation challenges, winning around half of them. None of this almost happened, because I thought 23-year old was too old to learn to code.

I never wanted to be coder because I thought I was too old to be one. I certainly did not fit the image of a coder. Before I got into university to study cognitive science, I was a carpenter. I graduated college with awful grades, and I was one point away from flunking mathematics. I’d gotten into university by a combination of luck, sweat, and tears. In my mind coder/developer was someone who was good at math and was constantly tinkering with computers.

Partly because that idea, I actually wanted to be a designer. The reason why I got into coding was the realization that design without functionality is useless. Static designs never have a function. After realizing that, I signed into an introductory course in Java. I was adamant that I was too old to code, and that I would never call myself a developer.

Call yourself a developer from day one

Many people, especially when starting out are afraid to call themselves developers. I have been afraid to call myself a developer. Even though I’ve written production code used by 3000 bank analysts every week. That’s how it is, but the feeling goes away.

For me, the feeling finally started to disappear when I started my most recent venture. The more I questioned my choice of starting the whole thing, and the more I banged my head against the wall about code I wrote, the more confident I felt referring to myself as a coder. The remedy for imposter syndrome in this case is to build more stuff with code.

There are also people who seem themselves as developers but shouldn’t. Not before they have actually build something with code. I seen one CEO have the audacity of calling himself a coder, despite never having worked as a one nor having built anything with code.

You’re only a developer if build stuff, nothing else matters. Fancy CS degree doesn’t make you developer if the only thing you got to show for it is a piece paper with numbers. The grit to build websites, mobile apps, or anything that has code in it does makes you a developer. Person who just started is more of a developer than someone whose only argument for being a developer is the CS degree they have. So start building something today.

If you work in technology, start coding, it will elevate your other skills as well. Also, if you’re a digital designer and you don’t know how to code at all, start learning now. You don’t have to be a professional, but you have to have experience from building something with code. Unless you’re designing for print, a designer who can’t code does not have a place in tomorrow’s economy. If you’re an employer, start teaching your designers to code, or get rid of them. They are dead weight without the capability to code.

You are never too old to start coding. Start learning today. Tell statistics and stereotypes of what coder should and should not be to go fuck themselves. Everyone can and should know how to code.

Key to Unlocking Creativity: Sleep

Copyright Rasmus ‘Eegi’ Ekholm

What you should know about sleep to boost your creativity

Couple of weeks ago Luova Aalto organized an event about the interplay of sleep and creativity, lead by the wonderful Anu-Katriina Pesonen, a professor of clinical and development psychology from University of Helsinki. Here are the key takeaways of that highly informative workshop.

First: What is Creativity?

“Come up with different usages for a brick”

Everyone has some kind of an idea what creativity means, but how about the science of creativity? Psychologists have actually been studying creativity for a long time (although the interest in it has died a little in the recent years), and have for example drawn a separation between different types of thinking.

First, we have convergent thinking, meaning the ability to give a “correct answer” to a question, like for example in tests! But creativity is defined by a completely different type of thinking, which scientists call divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is measurable too, by using tests that don’t have a single answer. In the workshop this was demonstrated by thinking of uses cases for a brick, e.g. using it as hammer, breaking it and using it as paint, etc.

Now in order to measure your creativity, you could just count the different use cases for a brick, that you came up with. That however tells you rather little. Instead your best bet would be to use Torrences test of creativity, which measures four things: fluency, total number of solutions generated; flexibility, number different categories of solutions; originality, the statistical rarity of the solutions; elaboration, amount of detail in solutions.

As might you have already thought, measuring creativity is a bit of a wild goose chase because the subject is so fuzzy, and the mentioned measuring method is just one many. More important is to understand the process of studying creativity, for it helps to understand how something is considered to correlate with creativity.

Things to Know About Sleep

Then how about sleep? Turns out, maybe not so surprisingly, that it too has been extensively studied in psychology and a variety of other different fields. However, sleep is just one part of a larger subject called circadian rhythm, and last year three scientists won Nobel prize for researching it. Circadian rhythm is maybe one of single most important factor to our health and wellbeing, affecting everything from our cognition to how well we burn fat.

So in order to understand sleep you have to understand circadian rhythm and circadian clock. Circadian rhythm is the inner clock of your body, adjusting your biological functions in accordance to solar time, meaning the in runs the same time as our 24 hour clock.

Good example of how circadian rhythm adjusts your biology is for example the feeling of tiredness. If our circadian clock is running on time, our bodies should start releasing melatonin, a sleep hormone, an hour before we head to bed. However, if we have for example wake up earlier than we usually do for a period of days while still going to bed at the same time, our circadian clock will adjust the release the melatonin. This will in turn, increase the chance of us going to bed earlier, and getting the amount sleep our bodies require.

Enough Sleep = Starting Point for Creative Thinking

Now at this point you‘re’ thinking: cool know I know a lot more about sleep and also understand how creativity is measured, but how does that help me maximize my creativity? The thing is, sleep is so tightly connected to the development and upkeep of our brains, and that way also to creativity, that the answer becomes relatively simple: get enough sleep and get it regularly.

Of course, easier said than done.

But we can start with little things. As mentioned, circadian rhythm is always adjusting itself according to what we do and what happens us to during the day. Therefore, small changes in our daily life can help adjust our circadian rhythm.

For example, reducing the disparity in when you go to sleep during the weekends and when you go sleep during weekdays, called social jetlag, can help us fall asleep in the days following. Scheduling exercises more towards day time and eating lighter meals in the evening helps your body to start preparations for sleeping on time. And for morning sleepiness, getting rid of the snooze button and a cup of coffee might actually help your body to understand the time of the day when is should start feeling energized.

Further Reading

Interested in learning more about sleep? First, to help you better understand your circadian rhythm, Anu is currently developing a new service for that set to launch in early 2019. More about that here.

Second, you might find a book by Matthew Walked, called Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams interesting. It covers the things mentioned here about sleep and more, and is really easy to read.